Even as the government continues to lift lockdown orders, a new survey from Korn Ferry indicates that half of the American workers are reluctant to get back to the workplace, citing health concerns. Until the coronavirus pandemic is dealt with or the curve of cases is flattened, there’s a good chance that people could contract the virus in their workplaces, and many are not willing to take the risk. As an employee, this might have you in a dilemma; on one hand, you might risk losing your job if you refuse to go back to work upon your employer’s request, and on the other hand, you have the virus to worry about. If you choose to go back to work, these are some of the things you can do to stay safe.
Know your rights
Even if the company you work for is legally allowed to re-open, your employer cannot force you to go back to work if you feel that the workplace is unsafe. Legal experts at fvflawfirm.com assert that employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe working environment free from things that could cause injuries or illnesses, and in the case of COVID-19, this means that employers must take the basic measures that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended preventing the spread of the virus as businesses re-open. These include providing personal protective equipment, installing hand-washing stations at the entrance, and limiting the number of people in the workplace at any given time to ensure social distancing. If you have concrete, specific examples indicating that your workplace is unsafe, you can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration without the fear of retaliation from your employer.
Assess your COVID-19 risk
Before going back to work, it is vital to assess the risk you face of contracting the virus and getting seriously ill. Over the last four months, evidence has shown that two groups of people face a higher risk of getting COVID-19 — including people aged 60 years and above, and those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. If you fall into these groups, you can discuss potential accommodations with your employer or request a protected leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Holding yourself to higher standards
After taking the recommended measures to prevent the spread of the virus in the workplace, your employer’s job ends there. It is up to you to do your part to keep yourself and other colleagues safe. For example, your employer may provide a mask, but it is up to you to wear it properly at all times. Similarly, your employer may provide hand-washing stations all over the office, but it is up to you to wash your hands for the full 20 seconds. You must remain vigilant at all times about everywhere you go, everything you touch, and all your interactions, ensuring that safety is the top priority in each case.
Going back to the workplace may seem risky right now, but by taking the measures outlined above, you can keep yourself safe and protect your health and that of your loved ones back at home. As you go back to work, honest communication, flexibility, and adhering to best practices will ease the transition and help you adapt to the new normal.